Ice Masses of the Eastern Canadian Arctic Archipelago

  • Wesley Van WychenEmail author
  • Luke Copland
  • David Burgess
Part of the World Geomorphological Landscapes book series (WGLC)


The islands of the Canadian Arctic, known as the Canadian Arctic Archipelago (CAA), contain the largest area of glacierized terrain outside of the ice sheets of Greenland and Antarctica. The ice masses are focused in the eastern part of the CAA, and stretch from the ice shelves of northernmost Ellesmere Island to glaciers in the southernmost parts of Baffin Island, together with a few mountain glaciers in northern Labrador. The majority of glacier ice (roughly 70%) is contained within the large ice masses located on Baffin Island (Penny and Barnes Ice Caps), Bylot Island (Bylot Island Ice Cap), Devon Island (Devon Ice Cap), Ellesmere Island (Prince of Wales Icefield, Manson Icefield, Sydkap Ice Cap, Agassiz Ice Cap, Northern Ellesmere Icefield) and Axel Heiberg Island (Steacie and Müller Ice Caps). The remaining ice is stored mainly in smaller ice caps and valley glaciers that skirt the coastline. The region’s major ice caps typically have maximum elevations around 2000 m asl and descend to sea level where outlet glaciers meet the ocean. Scientific studies of glaciers in the Canadian Arctic began in earnest in the 1950s, with previous knowledge largely gleaned from historical materials and expedition reports. Systematic in situ surface mass balance measurements initiated in the late 1950s and continue to present day, providing one of the longest continuous records of glacier mass balance within the Arctic. The Canadian Arctic also contains some of the very few remaining northern hemisphere ice shelves. Recent analysis indicates that since ~2000 these ice shelves have been undergoing significant reductions in their area and volume, often caused by episodic calving events that can produce ice islands with diameters of 10 km or more. Once detached, these ice islands can drift within the waters of the CAA and Arctic Ocean for years to decades and may pose a threat to Arctic shipping and offshore oil developments.


Glaciers Mass balance Glacier motion Glacier dynamics Canadian Arctic Archipelago 


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  • Wesley Van Wychen
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Luke Copland
    • 2
  • David Burgess
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Geography and Environment ManagementUniversity of WaterlooWaterlooCanada
  2. 2.Department of Geography, Environment and GeomaticsUniversity of OttawaOttawaCanada
  3. 3.Natural Resources CanadaOttawaCanada

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